Earlier this year wooga, the developer behind social games like Bubble Island and Magic Land, announced that it had become the fourth biggest game developer on Facebook. Currently wooga boasts more than 30 million monthly active users between all of its games. Not only that, but the developer was one of the launch partners with Google+ games and has plans to bring Diamond Dash to mobile phones, expanding its reach even further. Gamezebo spoke with wooga CEO Jens Begemann about the company’s quick rise and where it hopes to move in the future.
What is the meaning behind the company name, wooga?
wooga stands for “world of gaming,” a concept that we think expresses the way we approach gaming… globally!
You started wooga in 2009, at a time where the social games competition was fierce and Facebook was starting to change its wall and viral policies. Yet, two years later, you are one the largest largest social games companies on Facebook, with six games and 34 million monthly active users. What is the secret to your success?
We believe that our focus on engagement and retention instead of just virality allows us to maintain steady growth and success. We achieved this via methods such as in depth character development and a dedication to localising our games in several languages. wooga is committed to optimising the user experience as much as possible, and our extensive a/b testing allows us to improve our games on a weekly basis.
Though you are a large social games company on Facebook with 34 million monthly active users, Zynga is #1 with more than 260 million. How do you close that awesome gap? Can you (or anyone) beat Zynga on Facebook?
Zynga is twice as old wooga – four years instead of just two. This is still a very young industry and things are changing fast. We have achieved quite a bit with our relatively small team of just 100 employees (Zynga has 2,500) and remain very focused on building the best games. Currently two employees join the wooga-team per week and will build even better games going forward.
You just announced your first mobile game for iOS, Diamond Dash. Why did you pick Diamond Dash as your first mobile game? What did you change in the iPhone and iPad versions of Diamond Dash? What did you keep the same from the Facebook version?
Diamond Dash is our first title for iOS, an easy choice after its incredible success as a top 10 game on Facebook, with more than 10 million active players per month. The mobile version of Diamond Dash will enable millions of players worldwide to compete with their friends also on their Smartphones. We also host weekly tournaments, a very successful aspect of the Facebook version of Diamond Dash. But we will also launch Magic Land Island,an extension to our new game Magic Land,which is implemented in HTML5, highlighting our cross platform approach for mobile social gaming.
How do you make a game like Diamond Dash stand out when it’s up against other match-3 games like Bejeweled Blitz?
Diamond Dash is probably the fastest social match-3 game. This, and its many other unique characteristics, lead to such a large and loyal fan base within just a few months, and it will be great fun to play on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
wooga is based in Berlin, Germany, not Silicon Valley where a lot of social game companies are headquartered. What advantages and disadvantages are there to being a European social games company?
There are a lot of advantages for an international company being based in Berlin. The city is very creative; a lot of people from all over the world move to Berlin. 50 percent of wooga’s employees are from other countries. The city is very attractive, this helps to recruit experienced and dedicated people, no matter where they have lived before.
One thing we like about your games are the cute characters. Can you tell us more about your unique art style?
Creating cute and unique characters is very important to us, as we aspire to develop social games that inspire emotions in our users. We believe that taking the time to make appealing and lovable characters helps to create a bond between users and the game, and this leads to a better gaming experience and therefore user retention. We create our characters with love in Berlin.
You started on Facebook and now moving to mobile. Why are you making this move to mobile now and what platforms and devices do you think will be big for wooga in the future?
During the past year, our key audience has shifted towards mobile, as tablets and smart phones have gained popularity. As a leading social games developer, it is important for us to grow and develop with our target audience and therefore we are now transferring our original titles to mobile devices, starting with Diamond Dash for iOS. It’s our next huge goal to create great mobile social games, and bring the experience of playing with your friends to mobile. So watch out for our next titels.
What are your thoughts about HTML 5 as a future gaming platform?
Through creating original titles for HTML5, we are aiming to extravagate the limits of mobile games. We believe HTML5 titles will achieve this as they do not need to be downloaded, and they allow us to support all mobile devices, including those that do not support flash.
You released three games on Google+ Games on the day of its launch. What do you think Google needs to do to make Google+ games successful and what future plans do you have to release more games on Google+?
Google+ games just launched a few weeks ago, we are very exited to be a launch partner and we are looking forward to see the platform evolving. It’s too early to talk about any plans for the future.
What upcoming games and projects are you working on? How many games can we expect to see from wooga this year?
We announced that we will launch an iPad and iPhone version of Diamond Dash and a HTML5 extension for Magic Land this year. More over we are working on new games for Facebook but all details are a good kept secret.
Your goal is to be one of the largest social gaming developers in the world by the end of the next decade. What do you need to do to achieve this?
Our 2020 vision guides us, but our focus is on making our current games even better every week – and working on our next innovative game.
Any final words for your fans?
We hope you enjoy the gaming experience we create for you to play with your friends and we work passionate to make the experience better every day and to create new unique games for you. I really enjoy doing this and look forward to create many more games to bring an enjoyable gaming experience into your everyday lives.